Until recently, James Murphy, a freshman forward from Oxford, England, has known a football to be black, white, and spherical.

In his hometown, Murphy played five seasons for Reading FC, a Premier League club, before Michigan assistant soccer coach Tommy McMenemy paid him a visit early this past summer. Having been recruited by numerous American universities, including North Carolina, Rutgers and Ohio State, Murphy chose Michigan at the last minute, signing with the men’s soccer program in June.

Murphy isn’t the only Englishman to make the trans-Atlantic move to Michigan. He was joined by freshman midfielder Luke Coulson, a native of Manchester, England. The duo has been in Ann Arbor for training since the beginning of August and has seen plenty of action in the early portion of the fall schedule.

The transitions — from England to college life in the United States — have been difficult Murphy said, but nothing too overwhelming. Murphy said early morning weight lifting sessions and 9 a.m. classes certainly take some getting used to but “the boys have been great” in helping him adjust. He plans to major in political science and has aspirations to play Major League Soccer after college.

Through the first seven games of the season, the Wolverines have matched up against a heavy schedule that includes four of the country’s top-20 teams, posting a 2-5 record. Of the team’s “rocky start,” Murphy said experiences like playing No. 5 South Florida on the road in front of 3,000 fans “definitely put the team in good shape” for the season.

One highlight of the beginning of his freshman year, away from homework and soccer, was packing into a crowd of 112,522 at Michigan Stadium on Sept. 15 to watch the Michigan football team defeat Air Force, 31-25, in Murphy’s first game at the Big House.

“The only way to describe the soccer culture back home is to compare it to football here,” Murphy said of the atmosphere on game day.

And while he had a bit of trouble following some of the rules of the sport, he said there will be plenty of opportunities to learn the other football over the next four years at Michigan.

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